Rossner’s debut is the fantastical coming-of-age story of two sisters, combining historical events, religious strife, and Russian folklore. Alternating chapters of regular prose and ballad-like stanzas emphasize the difference between two loving daughters, products of an unusual, mystical union between two shape-shifters—a Jewish bear and a gentile swan ... First-love conflicts, fear, and prejudice may trigger transformations neither Liba nor Laya will be able to control.
At first glance, the town of Dubossary might appear to be a simple Jewish town at the edge of the woods. Pious and cheerful villagers bustle about in the snow, going to market and celebrating shabbas together. But for sisters Liba and Laya, who live in the forest outside of town, things aren’t quite as idyllic as they seem. Odd noises and rumors of wandering strangers suddenly make life in the woods a little less welcoming. Maybe the folk tales are true after all? ... Rossner’s The Sisters of the Winter Wood is a dreamlike ode to sisterhood, mythology and family that you won’t be able to put down.
The Sisters of the Winter Wood has a promising premise and a compelling setting. I wish I could have enjoyed it more. Unfortunately, a couple of things stood in the way of my wholehearted enjoyment. The novel’s viewpoint alternates between the two sisters, with a narrative recounted in the first person, but while Liba’s section of the book is recounted in prose, Laya’s is told in … honestly, I don’t know? I suspect the author believes it to be prose poetry of approximately six to eight words per line with randomly inserted mid-sentence line-breaks ... It induced in me first teeth-grinding impatience, then growing snark, then a throbbing headache, and finally overwhelming despair.